The Gluckstadt incorporation case is heating up the closer it gets to the trial date which is set to begin on February 4, roughly two years after the first petition was filed.
Mac Haik, owner of an automobile dealership within the proposed boundaries of Gluckstadt, wishes to be carved out of both Canton’s proposed area of annexation and the proposed city of Gluckstadt.
Haik’s lawyer Jim Herring has made a motion for court annexed mediation.
Mediation is a means of settling a case outside of the courtroom. The judge would order a neutral mediator to hear both sides and help them come to an agreement.
“The judge would appoint a mediator to hear from all parties and see if there is any way to reach a settlement outside of court,” said Gluckstadt incorporation attorney John Scanlon. “This works well in some cases where there is a money judgment at stake. If someone is suing for a tort or negligence.”
However, Scanlon said the law requires a court judgment in cases of annexation or incorporation.
“The parties cannot agree to create new boundaries for a city,” Scanlon said. “Even if we agree on everything, we would have to have a trial because there has to be a court judgment.”
Herring said the mediation process would help resolve several issues that he says are still out there, including the number of signatures and address the number of parties in place.
“If it’s unsuccessful, it wouldn’t put off anything,” Herring said. “With so many people involved, we are beginning to go into the discovery period, which is depositions and introduction of documents.”
He predicts this process will take a month or two.
“It’s our view that it would not hurt anything to see if in a day or two the matter could be resolved and save everyone a lot of money,” Herring said. “That was the idea, and I think it’s a good idea.”
Scanlon said they have not yet filed a response.
“Even if mediation takes place, it will not mean termination of the litigation,” Scanlon said. “I don’t think mediation is appropriate in this case.”
Those on all sides of the case are gearing up for the trial.
Scanlon said depositions are taking place between now and February.
“Right now, we are working hard and diligently with full plans that the trial will begin as planned on February 4,” Scanlon said. “We are preparing and planning to be ready to go forth on February 4 barring some unforeseen consequences. That’s the way we are moving forward right now.”
The Gluckstadt incorporation case was split into two trials.
The first trial served to determine that Gluckstadt had the correct number of signatures required to move forward with the case.
Chancery Judge James Walker’s judgement in March found that Gluckstadt had the correct number of signatures from qualified electors in the proposed area.
Gluckstadt was required to have signatures from two-thirds of the qualified electors.
Recently, the Mississippi Supreme Court denied petitions for interlocutory appeal from Haik and the City of Canton. An interlocutory appeal is an appeal to a ruling made before the trial itself has concluded.
The appeal petitions claimed that the signatures were gathered from an incomplete voter roll. The Mississippi Supreme Court denied these appeals.
Scanlon, an attorney for the incorporation of Gluckstadt, said that the Mississippi Supreme Court’s ruling was simply limited to not allowing interlocutory appeal at that stage.
The original petition for incorporation was filed on Feb. 1, 2017.
When the incorporation papers were filed, more than 73 percent of registered voters in the proposed city of Gluckstadt signed in support of the plan.
Mississippi law requires that 66 percent of registered voters in the area sign.
According to Scanlon, this trial will have to do with all other fact and legal issues involved in incorporating, such as police and fire protection.
The trial was originally scheduled for August 2018. However, due to appeals, the date was pushed back.
If Gluckstadt is incorporated, Walter Morrison will serve as mayor, and aldermen will include Miya Bates, Krisstel Hunt, Jayce Powell, Stephen Snell and Lisa Williams. Chris Watson serves as City Planner.
The proposed city limits will include several Madison County subdivisions, such as Ridgefield, Arrington, Red Oak, Bear Creek, Wildwood, Germantown, Panther Creek and Bradshaw Ridge.
The area takes in approximately 11.1 square miles, according to previous Sun reports.